Call by the Castle Hill High gymnasium any Wednesday night during term time and chances are you’ll see a blonde lady sitting on the sidelines intently watching the Hills Special Olympics basketball action. And why wouldn’t she? Her son, Steven, is out there, practising bounce passes and pass fakes and layups with the best of ’em.
No benchwarmer, this: Steven is right into the thick of it. Indeed, one of his goals in Special Olympics is to get better at basketball.
Twenty-two-year old Steven first joined Special Olympics eight years ago; he now swims (breaststroke and backstroke) and dances as well as playing basketball. A veteran of regional carnivals in both swimming and basketball plus a State Basketball Carnival, his enthusiasm is contagious.
Dad Richard, sister Rachelle and brother Matthew are big supporters of Steven’s sporting efforts as well, although we don’t know whether they share his liking for chicken wraps (his favourite food). Mum, Lynda, is the basketball co-ordinator.
When he’s not dribbling the ball or reeling off laps in the Oakhill College pool, Steve enjoys listening to music and watching it on the computer, as well as watching DVDs. His favourite sporting team is the Brisbane Broncos.
We can forgive him these minor lapses. He’s a great competitor and a real asset to Sydney Hills Special Olympics.
Just wondering, though: who does he barrack for in State of Origin?
Jason Amit is a relative newcomer to Special Olympics, having joined the dance group in early 2014. But it has opened his eyes to great friends, fantastic music and a new way of moving.
You see, when he started with Hills Special Olympics in February 2014 the likeable 21-year-old was already an experienced ballroom dancer. In fact, he has just completed his Gold Medals in Latin, New Vogue and Modern Ballroom with the Australian Dance Society.
In his first year as a Hills dancer Jason performed in the memorable routines at the end-of-year Annual General Meeting at Oakhill College, and two months later in the Hills Rotoract Talent Show. He also appeared in the Combined Regional Special Olympics Concert at Hornsby RSL Club in June 2015.
Not content with kicking up a storm on the dance floor, Jason also bowls ‘em over’ down the alley, having toppled the ten-pins every Saturday morning since he was 12. His average score of 140 makes him a force to be reckoned with.
As if that isn’t enough for one young man, he has his name down with Hills Region for swimming as well!
Jason and his Dad Chris support Wests Tigers and the Hills Hornets basketball team.
He loves You Tube, bike riding and – according to Mum Carina – hot chips!
One day he hopes to dance at the World Special Olympics. And so do all your friends in Hills Special Olympics!
Melany Newman, joined Hills Special Olympics in 2012. Melany is an enthusiastic dancer who is extremely proud of winning most improved dancer in her group for 2014.
“Special Olympics gives me the opportunity to participate in sports events, meet other athletes and make new friends,” she says.
With the support of her father Geoff, Mother Angela and brothers Stuart and Troy, Melany also enjoys ten-in bowling and netball during the winter months.
Her favourite sports team? You guessed it – the Australian Womens Netball Team, the Diamonds. So far as she’s concerned, Diamonds really are forever.
The best word to describe Emma Matthews is “all-rounder”. This bubbly young lady is a swimmer, dancer, ten-pin bowler and netballer. And she’s good at them all! Emma represented NSW in the swimming at the Special Olympics Nationals in October 2014 winning silver and bronze, but she’s also a member of the Rockets ten-pin bowling club at Hornsby who compete and travel nationally each year within the disability bowling competitions.
Emma plays netball on Saturday afternoons, works in the hairdressing industry and volunteers at Anglican Retirement Villages (“I like helping the elderly”) and somehow manages to fit in gym sessions during the week.
Her favourite food – which gives her lots of energy for all the activities she undertakes – is chicken kebab.
Mum Christine and Dad Neil have three other children – Sheree, Ben and Sam. The family is getting bigger all the time – Sheree recently had a baby boy; Ben is a proud father of two boys; while Sam has recently married the love of his life, Alicia.
Emma’s sport heroes are swimmer Michael Klim and athlete Cathy Freeman.
Truly inspirational, Emma.
Everyone loves a winner, which makes 17-year-old Michael Wade pretty popular. This five-year veteran of Special Olympics won two Gold Medals in athletics in the Junior Nationals – one for the 100 metres, the other for the shot put, as well as taking silver in the relay and finishing fourth in the 400 metres after losing his shoe!
Michael is also a strong swimmer, as was shown by his form at the March 2015 Regional Swimming Carnival at Oakhill.
But Michael’s real passion is soccer, where he won a silver medal in the Junior Nationals (and scored a goal) and a silver in the seven-a-side competition at last year’s Nationals in Melbourne. He has competed three times in the Futsal Nationals (Futsal is a five-a-side indoor form of soccer).
When he’s not training or playing sport himself, Michael helps out with the set-up for home games at the Blacktown Spartans Football Club.
Special Olympics is truly special to Michael. “It’s where I have lots of fun and get to go to different places to play sport with my best friends,” he says.
His favourite food is BBQ, which he shares with his Mum and Dad and sisters Kayla, Tamara and Courtney. And like any good Hills boy, he’s an Eels supporter.
Keep up the fancy footwork, Michael.
See how you can get involved
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